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Volunteer Drivers Face Insurance Challenges

Published: September 15, 2020
Authors: Jana Lynott, Public Policy Institute, Johanna Zmud, Gretchen Stoeltje, Todd Hansen, Tina Geiselbrecht, Chris Simek, Ben Ettelman, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Wendy Fox-Grage

Summary: The rise of Uber and Lyft has exacerbated insurance challenges for volunteer drivers. Insurance agents often have difficulty distinguishing between people using their personal vehicles to make money and those using them to provide transportation as volunteers. This confusion comes just as the demand for volunteer-provided transportation is rapidly increasing. State legislators and the insurance industry need to get involved to remove barriers to this invaluable form of volunteerism.

The Problem: More than 8 million Americans ages 65 and older do not drive, and the number is increasing as the population ages. Volunteer-provided transportation, often organized by a local nonprofit or government agency, offers older adults and people with disabilities an affordable way to get to where they need or want to go. The success of a volunteer-provided transportation program depends on its ability to recruit and retain drivers, and managers of these programs worry about exactly that as they watch demand grow. But too many would-be drivers are being deterred when insurance agents tell them that their car insurance rates might go up, that they might need a commercial policy or could lose their coverage.  

As the popularity of commercial ridehailing began to grow after 2015, the AARP Public Policy Institute (AARP) noticed an uptick in anecdotal reports from nonprofit volunteer-provided transportation program managers of drivers having difficultly securing insurance for their volunteer services. In response, AARP commissioned the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) to explore state laws that might affect volunteer drivers, contacted customer service representatives and agents at 10 of the largest automobile insurance companies, and surveyed the CEOs of 11 insurance companies. We learned that efforts to regulate and insure this industry exacerbated insurance challenges for people who drive as volunteers.

The link to the full paper is available under provided resources.